Discovering Kodachrome

Posted by on October 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm :: No Comments

There are many remote regions in Utah. Places that you’ve never heard of that are no less lovely than some of the state’s more traveled spots. Jason and I just visited one of those areas.

I am an eager explorer; my unquenchable curiosity is no doubt the culprit. So when I recently came across information on Kodachrome Basin, a state park that Jason and I had never been to, I decided that it was time we took a little trip. Kodachrome Basin State Park is in south-central Utah about half an hour from Bryce Canyon National Park. You’d think that with its proximity to Bryce it would be a popular detour but apparently that’s not the case. I, however, was intent on not only visiting Kodachrome’s striking spires of sandstone but on making them a destination instead of an afterthought.

The ashen-tipped hills of Angel's Palace looked like they belonged on another planet.

Jason and I set aside a weekend for our adventure and stayed in a cute KOA cabin about 15 minutes outside the park. We spent a day investigating Kodachrome’s unfamiliar terrain and found that while this region’s garbled rock formations and vivid landscapes reminded us of several other places in Southern Utah, it had a look of its own. For starters, it was surprisingly green. When you’re in the middle of a desert you don’t expect to see fields of flourishing Indian rice and corral grasses bending gracefully to the wind. Kodachrome’s slopes gather water, which explains its basin title, so the environment is relatively lush. My favorite thing about Kodachrome though wasn’t its abundance of plant life but its absence of human life. We saw only a handful of people on each of the trails we explored. That seclusion made the park’s grandeur even more pronounced.

This rock looked like a massive dinosaur bone but it was just one of the many odd spires strewn across Kodachrome.

Jason's favorite bit of the whole trip was the snack break we took while sitting in a nook above Shakespeare Arch.

The trail options at Kodachrome weren’t limitless but they were more than enough to fill up our day. We took in a birds-eye view from the plateaus of the Angel’s Palace Trail then we checked out Shakespeare Arch, the only arch in Kodachrome, from the slickrock above it. To finish off our day we hiked the Panorama Trail and walked among its pipe giants and secret passageways.

Shakespeare Arch wasn't expansive but it was quaint.

On our way back from Kodachrome we diverted into the neighboring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to gawk at Grosvenor Arch. This double arch, with its gold-streaked sandstone, was impressive and unlike any other arch I’ve seen. Its immovable curves were worth the long jerky dirt road we had to take to get to them.

Grosvenor Arch was striking in the sunset with its gilded tones and lofty splendor.

We slept in sleeping bags and roasted marshmallows by the campfire but I don't think you could call our cabin's modern accommodations camping.

Although the focus of our excursion was surveying the hitherto unknown, Jason and I couldn’t go right by Bryce Canyon and not go in for a bit even if both of us have been there on numerous occasions. That would be a crime against convenience and nature. But no need for concern, Bryce ended up being part of our explorations of the undiscovered anyway. We opted to try out a trail through the canyon that we had never taken before: the Peekaboo Loop. This path is nearly 5 miles long and is categorized as strenuous thanks to its many ups and downs. That classification is precisely why we could never successfully convince any of the family members or friends we’ve gone to Bryce with to attempt it. And now that I’ve done this loop I have to say that laziness really is the bane of beholding beauty. The Peekaboo Loop was much less crowded than Bryce’s shorter trails and the scenery was stunning. Pale sandstone hoodoos towered above us and bled into their more colorful counterparts making the terrain look foreign to Earth. Gorgeous!

The world is submersed in beauty at Bryce Canyon so choosing a picture spot is difficult.

The Windows were imposing and impressive.

Eventually all good things must end though. Our wonderful weekend was over far too quickly but we stretched out the fun a tad by deviating from our route home to check out a couple of cool places. We took a few minutes to hike to the Mossy Cave and stopped at Widtsoe, a real ghost town deserted in the 1930s.

I'm not sure what I was doing here but it had to do with coercion from Jason.

Though not technically inside Bryce Canyon, the Mossy Cave path is part of the national park. It heads up a brightly tinted canyon to, not surprisingly, a mossy cave along with a waterfall created by the early Mormon settlers a hundred years ago as a segment of the Tropic Canal. Despite its uninspiring name, the Mossy Cave was a pleasant easy hike.

Thor's Hammer is one of the most photographed hoodoos in Bryce Canyon for good reasons.

Widtsoe was a peculiar place. While not completely a ghost town, someone had recently built a large cabin up on the hillside behind it, it still had that forgotten vibe. Its few remaining buildings, which somehow had escaped the government’s bulldozers in the 40s, looked like they belonged on a horror movie set with their crumbling plaster and rotting wood. Jason loved their spookiness and I had to hold him back from stupidly jumping right into the decay. Although the remnants of this town were odd enough, the cemetery was stranger still. Most of the graves were from about 1910-1930 but there were a few as recent as 2012. This graveyard was as isolated as they come. With nothing but the desert wind rustling through the hardy junipers and the tinkling of wind chimes left by loved ones to disturb the absolute silence, I can’t think of a more peaceful resting place. But it was also on the eerie side. The arid landscape had not been altered much by those interred and the graves were so haphazardly placed it almost seemed as if the ground had just sprouted the tombstones along with the dry grasses. Only the mounds of dirt marking the burial sites implied a human presence but those piles, which conjured images of the Wild West or the rushed entombments of an epidemic, amplified the atmosphere of creepiness rather than reduced it. Yes, the Widtsoe cemetery is probably not a place you’d catch me lurking in after dark.

This house has stood unoccupied for nearly 80 years.

The inside of that abandoned house was a mess of rot and deterioration.

Our Kodachrome weekend was perfection. We discovered magnificence that made me small, serenity that left me silenced, and eccentricity that gave me goose bumps. Not bad for a little outing just a few hours away. Utah has a lot to offer off the beaten path. Jason and I won’t ever get tired of examining its unknowns or revisiting our favorites. After all, life isn’t something to be endured but something to be explored.

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